Cuppa Tea Time: Do I finish my sketch?

April 3, 2017 | 13 Comments

Just a short article today to share a very quick cup of tea sketch I did last week during my catch up with Stephanie Bower at The Tea Cosy and a few thoughts about finishing off sketches.

We were still talking way after 4pm when the tearoom was closed and when we realised the time Stephanie cried “Oh! but I wanted to see you sketch a teacup.” So in only a few minutes (3 or 4) I put down a few paint strokes in pure reflex sketching mode.

We took a few photos (please excuse another photo of the happy girl) and then decided that we had better let the staff clear our table and finish up for the day.

So this isn’t really a finished sketch. I would normally have added some lines and another layer of more precise paint strokes over the top. The best way to describe it is an extended first pass – because I knew I would only get time for one pass, I just did a little more than normal for this first stage so that it described the cup as a whole.

I am slightly tempted to finish the sketch, but well… these days I have the tendency to leave incomplete sketches in my book as a record of how much I managed to do at the time – or more accurately a record of how much I was talking at the time! And so I’m going to resist the temptation and not touch this sketch. I will just have to go back again soon and do another (finished) version, won’t I?

Oops, I just posted three images of the one sketch (and three photos of myself) into a single blog article. Tragic!

So what about you? Do you leave incomplete sketches as they are in your sketchbook, or do you generally complete them later on? And why?


  • Anna Jones says:

    No, don’t ‘finish’ it. I think it is lovely just as it is! I really like its simplicity and dynamism.

  • Marie-C. Vigneron says:

    I fully agree with Anna Jones !

  • Denise Dineen says:

    Love seeing that beautiful smile

  • Lin Powell says:

    I love the unfinished one. Unfortunately I am a Virgo and a perfectionist and I would have to finish it. I am working very hard at letting that perfectionism go and seeing the beauty in your unfinished piece helps me reach that goal. It is a work in progress for me though.

  • Carmel Campbell says:

    Yes, I do leave unfinished sketches in my sketchbook. I lose the momentum. My pen marks and paint strokes are different if I return to a sketch later. I love your smile! Keep smiling, you have so much to smile about!

  • Linda Sprouse says:

    Liz I find it hard to sketch on location. I think it’s that I don’t have enough confidence in my abilities to do so in public. You do such wonderful sketches and I love seeing what you are doing, it is really inspiring and hopefully someday I will feel comfortable enough to do this. But since I’m already 73 years old I guess I better get to that point soon. I have your book and am trying to improve my sketching by practicing. Thank you for all the tips, techniques and the great blog you share with us all.

  • lise gauthier says:

    I don’t finish the sketch … because it is what I sketch at this moment … it is more the reality of what we do in short time, more true about urbansketcher activity …

  • Liz Steel says:

    thanks everyone… I wasn’t really tempted to finish it… I just wanted to leave the option open and so glad that you all agree that when you sketch unfinished often becomes finished! I think that is one of the essential ingredients of sketching!

  • Gaelle1947 says:

    That’s the beauty of a sketchbook – allows one to record life in shorthand, so to speak, to seize an impression of moment in time. I’m still trying very hard, though, to leave the marks or splashes of colors “as is” – but now I bring along my camera to capture some details…just in case I want to revisit a page for some more finalized editing….but, not too much, and I’m learning to be content with less and less reviewing. And a note here to Linda who commented above. I’ll be 70 this october….so stick with this – It’s never too late and you will never suffer the boredom that so many of our age group often complain about…..there will always be something to sketch, even everyday objects around you – So, be fearless, and try the great outdoors soon – start with small things – a patch of grass, a tree, a rock and you will be surprised how quickly your will reach your comfort level. It’s not about the results, it’s about the journey!

  • I think you should leave it as it is…they eye of the observer will finish it anyway.

    It depends on what I’m sketching if I will go back into it or not. Some I just leave and some I want as more finished pieces so I’ll complete them.

  • Suzanne Chisholm says:

    Hello Liz and congratulations on getting your smile back. Braces sound very unfun!
    As for finishing my sketches off later, I don’t have a hard and fast rule about it – sometimes I do but usually I don’t as the unfinished look is often interesting I think.
    Do you sketch in paint first then add lines later, which you touched on in your article?
    Suzanne (first time ever contributer to any blog anywhere)

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Suzanne – congrats on your first blog comment – thank you! I know how much a big deal it is 🙂
      In answer to your question I often start with some paint, but there is no fixed rule… well except for always mixing it up! Sometimes line first in a traditional approach.

  • Matthieu Kiriyama says:

    It is finished.

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